Sails are like cars, and demand service and regular maintenance. The more attention you give to your sails, the longer they will perform like new. Here are some tips for maintaining your sails in the off-season.
Inventorying and you sails and the condition at the end of the season is the best way to make sure you will be ready to go at your first event of the next season.
If you have yet to pull your boat for the season, now would be a great time to get pictures of each sail. Make sure the sail is full, on a close-hauled course, and trimmed correctly. Photograph them all from mid-foot, with the lens aimed at the head of each sail. Be sure to note the conditions when the photographs were taken – the more information, the better. Your sailmaker can use these to see what modifications can be made to ensure better performance. We recommend keeping a digital photograph library of your sails throughout their lifespan.
Measuring your sails at the beginning and end of each season should become a common practice, so get in the habit now. Regular measurements will show how much the shape has changed throughout the season.
The easiest and most efficient way to assess your sails is to drop them off at your local loft. Even if you can spot a broken stitch, trained sailmakers and service techs can spot potential problems before they become costly issues. If you want to take a run at assessing them yourself, and you have the space, be sure you inspect every inch of your sails, checking the stitching, the luff tape, webbing, and all of the corners for broken stitches and wear. After looking over the stitching, make sure you assess the fabric, looking for any tears, holes, or weak spots. If you have a laminate sail, make sure you look for any spot where the sail might be delaminating, or where fatigue has started to create pin holes. Next check the hardware. For example, hanks that have spent years going up and down a wire halyard will begin to thin and can become unsafe. If any problems are found, you will need to make a trip to your local sailmaker. Part of ensuring that you get the most out of your sails is having them repaired by a trained professional.
After inventorying your sails and their conditions, you may find it’s time to replace an old sail, that a current sail needs to be modified/repaired, or that there is a gap in your inventory. Beat the spring rush and start talking to your sailmaker now about your options.
Sail Repairs & Modifications
Off-season is the time to get your sails checked and maintained so they’re ready to go in the spring. A large percentage of repairs that we see during the sailing season could have been avoided by a thorough winter check and service.
Have an older sail that is starting to lose its shape? Look into having your sail recut before purchasing a new one. Older sails in good condition can be reshaped to return the sail to peak performance at a cost far less than the price of a new sail.
Remember those pictures you took while sailing? A Quantum sail consultant can use those photos to give you a sail shape analysis. They will digitize the images, measure the shape, and determine what can be done to address the problem areas.
These sail modifications are best performed during the off-season. That allows us to work on your sail without cutting into your time on the water.
Storing your Sails
You go to great lengths to make sure your boat is safe and secure during the off-season, so make sure to do the same for your sails.
Sails need to be stored where they are safe from moisture, temperature extremes, and pests. Any combination of those can ruin a good sail.
Moisture increases the risk of mildew and stains. Temperature extremes can also potentially damage laminates. High temperatures can even cause woven sails to change shape or become brittle. When it comes to pests, mice and rats love rolled up sails – they provide a secure environment, ample material that can be shredded for bedding, and a good supply of salt. This can leave you with a sail full of holes and littered with feces and urine stains, which are not only hard to get out, but also unhealthy to humans. Insects and spiders also like to nest in sails. They don’t do as much damage as rodents, but it’s still not pleasant to open your sail bag at the beginning of the season and find these multi-legged tenants.
The best way to store your sails is to store them on a shelf (keep the open end of the bag facing away from any walls for better air circulation and to make it harder for a pest to get in). If you want to make sure that rodents stay away, an ultrasonic noise system will do the job nicely.
Start Planning the next Season
Instead of moping because another sailing season has come and gone, use that energy and start planning next year’s racing schedule, or get the ball rolling on an off-shore adventure. If you have a crew, get them together to celebrate another successful season. While you have everyone together, make a list of regattas you plan to sail and/or locations you’re hoping to visit. Prioritize which events are most important to you and your crew, and start making arrangements. Having something on the calendar can ease those winter sailing blues.
If you want to plan a big adventure, start researching the location and ask around for tips and advice. Look at your sail inventory and make sure you’ll be prepared for the sailing conditions. If you’re missing any sails, get them ordered early so you won’t run into problems with the spring rush. It’s also a good time to inventory the rest of your boat, to make sure it has what it needs for your next adventure and is in good shape.